Gordon C. James is the Founder and Owner of Gordon C. James Public Relations, a full-service public relations agency with offices in Phoenix, Arizona and Washington, DC. Gordon became friends with President George H.W. Bush dating back to the late 1970s and spent 20 years in a variety of different business and political positions.
After the 1988 presidential election, Gordon joined President Bush’s staff at the White House serving as his Lead Advance Representative and as Director of Invitations and Ticketing for the 51st Presidential Inaugural Committee. In 1990, he established Gordon C. James Public Relations as a full-service media relations, event management, and governmental affairs agency. He was also involved in President George W. Bush’s elections and inaugurations in 2000 and 2004.
In this episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, John Corcoran interviews Gordon C. James, the Founder and Owner of Gordon C. James Public Relations, about his experience meeting and working as an Advance for President George H.W. Bush. Gordon explains what an Advance does, talks about moving to work in Baghdad, and explains why he started his own public relations agency. Stay tuned.
Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:
- How Gordon C. James met President George H.W. Bush and his experience working as his Advance for years
- Gordon talks about working on President Bush’s inauguration in 1988
- What inspired Gordon to start his own firm, Gordon C. James Public Relations and how he was pulled back into politics
- The difference between the 2000 and 2004 Presidential inaugurations, Gordon’s experience working in Baghdad in 2004, and how his family reacted to his moving to Baghdad
- How Gordon worked as a Lead Advance Representative for President George H.W. Bush and President Bill Clinton in the Maldives
- Gordon talks about going on a trip with President Bush and Secretary Baker, going skydiving, and the passing of the former president
- The peers Gordon respects and how to get in touch with him
Resources Mentioned In This Episode
- Gordon C. James Public Relations
- Gordon C. James on LinkedIn
- Gordon C. James on Facebook
- David Anderson on LinkedIn
- Off Madison Ave
- United Nations General Assembly (UNGA)
- Arizona Air National Guard
- “From the White House to EO, YPO, and Discovering the Leader Within Us” with Warren Rustand on the Smart Business Revolution Podcast
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Welcome to the revolution, the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, where we ask today’s most successful entrepreneurs to share the tools and strategies they use to build relationships and connections to grow their revenue. Now, your host for the revolution, John Corcoran.
John Corcoran 0:40
All right, welcome everyone. John Corcoran here, and I’m the host of the show. And you know, every week I get to talk to interesting founders, CEOs, entrepreneurs, and every once in a while, I get to talk to a really interesting founder, really interesting entrepreneur that has a shared background with me. A couple of my past guests Warren Rustand, David Anderson overlapped in the political world, on both sides of the aisle. And this guest has a similar kind of background story. His name is Gordon James, and Gordon has a fascinating background. He became friends with President George HW Bush, dating back to the late 1970s. He spent 20 years in a variety of different business and political positions. After the 1988 presidential election, he joined President George HW Bush’s staff at the White House serving as Lead Advance Representative for the President and also Director of Invitations and Ticketing for the 51st Presidential Inaugural Committee. And then in 1990, established Gordon C. James Public Relations as a full service media relations, event management and Governmental affairs agency. He also was really involved in President George W. Bush’s elections and inaugurals in 2000 and 2004. So we’re going to talk all about that background, and also how it relates to the work that he’s done in the business sector, as well. So it’d be a pleasure to talk to him about that. Of course, this episode is brought to you by Rise25 Media, where we help b2b businesses to get clients, referrals, and strategic partnerships with done for you podcasts and content marketing. Go to Rise25media.com, you can learn all about it. Alright, Gordon, it’s such a pleasure to have you here. First of all, quick shout out to David Anderson of Off Madison Ave. He introduced us and, you know, with our shared background, both having worked in the White House and around all these big presidential campaigns, there’s so many things that I want to ask you about. But first, let’s start with your first introduction to President George HW Bush, I believe it was 1978. And you didn’t have a lot of experience in the political world. But you were kind of smitten, let’s say, so.
Gordon C James 2:52
Tell us a story. Oh, I grew up in Phoenix, Arizona, but I married a girl from Iowa. And I ended up in Des Moines, Iowa in the property management business of all things. And my former commanding officer in the Iowa Army National Guard called me and George Woodcraft called me and said, I have a guy running for president. And we need some office space in downtown Des Moines. And as you know, I was the first caucus and big deal and we get candidates from all over the country coming in there. And I’m anxious to rent to them. And I just had a perfect spot. I said, Well, who is it? He says George Bush and I went, who the heck is he? And he said, Oh, you know him. He’s the head of the CIA and the party chairman. And I said, Well, I don’t really know him, but I’m happy to read him. I’ve got a perfect spot, and the Insurance Exchange building at 15 grand in downtown Des Moines. And so we struck a deal. And about several months later, Ben, Ambassador, we called him because he had been the envoy to Beijing and China. Ambassador Bush came to Des Moines and I met him in the lobby of the Insurance Exchange building. And something clicked. I just went, Wow, this guy is something else.
John Corcoran 4:11
ANd was it something about his charisma? Was it something he said to you, you know, can you think back about what it was?
Gordon C James 4:20
I’m not sure he said anything to me. It was just his presence. And I’m sure I shook hands with him and met him. But it was just there were just something unique about him is sometimes
John Corcoran 4:31
That’s probably one of the top questions I’ve gotten over the years is what was Bill Clinton like in person? And it’s hard sometimes to separate? The man from the office because, you know, they always have they always come with an entourage of dozens of people around them. And that in itself is impressive. But I’ve also been around presidential candidates who have an entourage around them, and don’t strike me that way. I can think of a number of Who didn’t end up getting elected? So, you know, it’s hard to tell sometimes what it is, though that what it is about charisma, it’s kind of a femoral.
Gordon C James 5:10
Well, yeah, no entourage. Interesting. All right. Well, George Woodcraft picked him up at the airport and brought him to 15 grand and there was nobody. Wow. Yeah, gather, we had gathered some political activists, which I was not one of.
John Corcoran 5:28
To me, a property manager.
Gordon C James 5:30
I was. I was the building builder. Super.
John Corcoran 5:35
And what’s interesting about that, I have to say also, is that me if their political activists around some political leaders would have just gravitated to them and ignored the property manager guy, but you still felt like he cared about you or something? Because you made such an impression?
Gordon C James 5:52
Definitely. I definitely felt like I wanted to be a part of this man’s life and career. And that just, it just started. Yeah. And as you know, as you may remember, George HW Bush won the Iowa caucus, President Reagan chose not to participate. And Ambassador Bush, one of all things, he went on to win a couple of more states, but it fizzled out as the summer progressed, and I actually kind of lost track of where he was. And I don’t remember thinking much about it until the convention when
John Corcoran 6:36
because the party kind of moves on from your state to other states. Yeah, unless you go with it, then you lose track, especially back then without 24-hour news.
Gordon C James 6:45
I was in a flyover state after. Yeah. So anyway, he became the vice presidential nominee and Reagan, Bush won an ad and I really didn’t, wasn’t able to do much after that. I had three kids at home, and a real job. And I was named treasurer of Reagan bush in Iowa, which absolutely meant nothing. I didn’t, I couldn’t sign checks. I couldn’t do anything. It was just kind of a funny little title. But as of 1887, rolled around in 19, and 1986 and 1987.
John Corcoran 7:27
Well, before we get to that, I think there’s a story in your book about you getting a call from the White House, I think this is shortly. This is 19, probably 1981, shortly after George HW Bush takes office as vice president and then you accompany him on a trip.
Gordon C James 7:45
I joined the advanced team on the trip and Doug McKenzie, dear friend of mine, still to this day was the leader advanced, I had no idea what I was getting involved in.
John Corcoran 7:57
Yeah, and for those who don’t know what is advance, we would
Gordon C James 8:01
go domestically, we would travel about five to six days ahead of the Vice President and make all the arrangements for his visit, including, you know, the venue and the hours all going to work, where he was going to speak or who he was going to meet with who is going to greet him right down to who is going to greet him at the plane, we would join a team of the United States Secret Service, White House Communications, White House travel office, and there would be probably on a domestic trip probably 100 people involved in the team Air Force One advance all the agencies involved in moving a vice president united states
John Corcoran 8:46
air force back then there. Yeah.
Gordon C James 8:48
And you know, our main job was to create a visual. And I have no idea how to do that. I really,
John Corcoran 9:01
I was gonna say naturally your background and property management. You know, that was the perfect training.
Gordon C James 9:06
Oh, when the plane arrived and I wanted to get in the limo with a vice president who’s a friend of mine, you know? I didn’t know you’re supposed to ride in the staffing. Not ever, ever. That was my first exposure to advanced work. And literally you’re
John Corcoran 9:22
you liked it and you had some ability for it because you made it your career for many years.
Gordon C James 9:29
I don’t know. I learn on the fly. And I had some great mentors. Zig roguish Bruce, Bruce Anka, Tony Benedetti. I had some people that really taught me how to do it, and really told me what would be if that time there were newspapers. I remember that it was newspapers. And our goal was to have a picture of the Vice President of the United States above the fold on the front page of the fold. That’s pay for
John Corcoran 10:01
the folder that is there. Right? Right. Right. That was within that was what was so important about advance in men and uh, you actually have a picture of one of the worst pictures of advanced of all time, which is a picture of Mike Dukakis. Those who are my age or older will probably remember this. It’s a picture of Mike Dukakis in a tank. I think he’s got his tie a little bit askew. Like a label across this helmet. This is Mike Dukakis. And it looks utterly ridiculous.
Gordon C James 10:37
That’s true. So what do we want to avoid? Yeah. I also think there’s a picture in there of vice President Bush holding a piglet that was a famous one. I mean, the Hopkins team had their bad days, but I had my bad days, too.